The National Guard (NG) is continuing to carry out military exercises within the environmentally protected Paralimni Lake area, despite being urged not to do so by  the Environmental Services.

Responding to reports yesterday that the ministry was refusing to stop the exercises, Defence Minister Demetris Eliades told the Cyprus Mail that “the ministry is looking into” doing so.

And it isn’t just the exercises that have led to a European Court of Justice ruling – and possible future sanctions – when it was deemed that Cyprus was not doing enough to protect the lake and its rare grass snake, but the fact that over 304 villas have been built on the northern part of the lake.

Citing “confidential documents”, Politis newspaper yesterday reported that not only did the NG continue to embark on military exercises on part of the lake, it was refusing to put an end to it.

It also claimed the Defence Ministry was demanding a place on the committee that decides what areas would be environmentally protected.

The paper said it had a letter from the Environment Service, requesting the NG stops its exercises in the area.

But in response, the NG reportedly said such a development would prove more costly.

Last March, the European Court of Justice said Cyprus broke EU law by failing to protect Paralimni Lake and the endangered native grass snake.

The Court said Cyprus broke EU law by not including the entire Paralimni Lake in the sites of community importance (SCIs) as part of the Habitats Directive, as it had been urged to do by the European Commission in 2007. By the time it was eventually included in 2009, the northern part of the lake wasn’t, leading to an infringement procedure by the EC on the grounds that Cyprus did not take the necessary measures

to protect the grass snake.

Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou yesterday explained that the Commission was now observing Cyprus’ reaction to the ruling before deciding how to act next.

When asked why the northern part of the lake couldn’t just be included in the SCIs, Theopemptou revealed it had already been developed by a businessman, who allegedly used “connections” to secure licensing.

The businessman can’t be forced to leave becasue “he was given permission”, said the commissioner.

“The court ruling was brought out,” said Theopemptou. “Depending on how we react, the EC will decide if they are satisfied and will see if they will punish us or not. On a local level we haven’t started discussing it yet, because when there are businessmen involved, people avoid it.”

 

 

 

 

 

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